Shale Daily / NGI All News Access

Municipalities in Colorado, California Address Fracking

Despite ongoing statewide efforts, city and county governments in Colorado and California are coming up with local solutions to safe and sane hydraulic fracturing (fracking). Two jurisdictions are lifting fracking moratoriums.

In Colorado, the state in some cases has taken or threatened legal action (see Shale Daily, March 1), and in California there is a set of proposed draft fracking rules now undergoing an elaborate public review process (see Shale Daily, Feb. 13).

In California the local efforts are indirect, addressing land-use planning requirements, while in Colorado the push is head on, involving moratoriums on drilling and local rules and regulations that in some cases duplicate state regulations already in effect.

On Tuesday the Boulder County, CO, elected commission voted against extending an ongoing moratorium on new wells in the county that is scheduled to expire June 10, and it plans to phase in planned natural gas and oil development in the eastern half of the county

Noting that they could limit the number of places where drilling could take place, the commissioners are expected at a June 5 meeting to adopt additional drilling regulations on top of those passed last December (see Shale Daily, Feb. 7).

Also on Tuesday, the Fort Collins, CO, city council voted 4-3 to lift its drilling moratorium, allowing Prospect Energy, the only drilling operator in the city, to drill in two areas under local regulations that city officials said are stricter than state drilling regulations.

Under an operating agreement with the city, Prospect Energy, a subsidiary of Denver-based Black Diamond Minerals LLC, can drill in an oilfield on the northeast edge of the city and in a two-square-mile area near an Anheuser-Busch brewery. The exploration/production (E&P) company, however, cannot re-enter plugged and abandoned wells, and it must carry $10 million in insurance to cover clean-up costs in the event of an accident.

In local news media reports, Black Diamond CEO Scott Hall characterized the agreement as something he did not entirely like and the city did not entirely like. He also complained about there being too much "misinformation" on oil/gas practices, such as fracking.

Fort Collins Mayor Gary Horak said the city had little choice but to lift the drilling ban or face a lawsuit he said it could not win. "We have an agreement that is far and above anything else in the state," Horak told local news media.

Meanwhile, in Ventura County, CA, which has historically had an active oil/gas E&P sector, the five-member county supervisory board voted 4-1 on Tuesday to direct county officials to include questions about fracking in applications from companies seeking to operate in unincorporated parts of the county northwest of Los Angeles.

Supervisor Steve Bennett said with the county's sizable oil reserves, it needs to be at what he called "the forefront" of the ongoing debate on fracking. Bennett told local news media that the new requirement will help the county gather data that could be used in the environmental analysis and review to determine if hydraulic fracturing can be safely done.

Ventura's move is similar to what neighboring Santa Barbara County did in 2011-2012, amending the county's land-use code and environmental review requirements to address fracking.

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